Slam-bezi

by Chris De Veer
(USA)

I love the outdoors and the adventure activities that put you close to nature. I can’t think of anything that puts you closer to the power of the mighty Zambezi (a.k.a., the Slam-bezi) than hopping in a raft with people I don’t know to paddle through some serious rapids. If you can think of something better, let me know.

On the Zambezi, there is low-water and high-water rafting. Apparently in the first ten rapids, there is a class 6 rapid – which means that your insurance company doesn’t provide liability coverage if you, a commercial enterprise, try to run through it with customers. To run the entire rivers, the rafting companies have their clients walk around this particular class 6 rapid. When the water is high, though, there is no place to walk, so the companies start at rapid number 11. In perhaps two-weeks time, they’ll be starting at rapid number 1. Ah well. Next time, on my five day float.

Despite starting on rapid 11, the river was great! The first wave that splashed into my face – maybe it smashed into my face – nearly knocked out my contact lens and had me sputtering and coughing after I swallowed some of the Zambezi. Naturally, I worried about parasites, toxins, blah, blah, blah. But two days later, I’m still alive.

After the first rapid, it was brilliant the rest of the way down. My favorite was number 17, where we rode the wave train up and down. That was such a rush. What was disappointing was my lack of stamina. Wow, I felt so weak. So weak. I could barely paddle for more than a few minutes at a time. Afterwards, I was wheezing, straining, and wanting to cry for my mommy. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but I definitely felt weak and stiff.

Amazingly, though, the guide decided to put me in the front. I don’t know if that was because he noticed how weak I was and the front doesn’t matter too much, or if he noticed that I actually pay attention to the other guy paddling and try to paddle in sync. There were two Ozzies, two Pommies, me, a Zim, a Zam, and our South Korean rafting guide (not really, our guide Colgate grew up around Vic Falls, but told us he was South Korean as a joke).

Colgate was a trip. So full of life, singing, and just ready to help everyone have a fun, safe time down the Slambezi. We went down the river with another raft – one steered and powered by the guide only. We switched guides at a calm point in the river. Colgate managed to convince the Belgian guys in the other boat to flop on their stomachs right at the bow of the raft. I think he told them it was a safety drill. He demonstrated, then had them practice a few times. On the last forward flop they did, he used the oars to quickly push the boat backwards. End result, they’re flopping forward, boat is moving backward … and voila, in the water. We laughed hard watching it. The Belgian guys in the boat laughed even harder!

At the end of the trip, we had to climb out of the gorge, probably 150m from the river back to the top. There, before us, was a veritable open air market of goods to buy for a shoe or a t-shirt or sun glasses and a little cash. Perhaps other people don’t know the value of their goods, but giving an $80 pair of sandals for a $2 item and giving cash does not appear to be the height of an astute bargainer.

I bought a couple things and thought it was reasonable, but I suspect I still over payed. I still loved the day.

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